Thursday, December 18, 2014

Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Today’s children are told never to keep secrets. But what if your life depends on it? What if you learn to lie so well that you start to forget who you really are? And if that happens, how will you find your true self again?
Odette Meyers was a Jewish child who survived WWII in France by hiding in plain sight. Many of the 84% of Jewish children saved in that country lived through the war in this way. Told in first person in free verse in Odette’s childhood voice, this historical novel “is a gentle introduction to a dark period.”
My Thoughts:
I’m an expert now at keeping secrets.
Did God punish me because I told a lie,
said that I was not Jewish?
I can’t stop being scared, though.”  (Odette – after moving to the French countryside)

Did you know that parents hid their children in the French countryside during WWII?  What a sacrifice was made to protect Jewish children from the Holocaust!  Maryann Macdonald captures the combination of innocence and sheer terror in the life story of Odette Meyers as she experiences France as a Jewish girl during WWII.  Odette had a very profound experience through poetry during her childhood, so Maryann honored that by choosing to write Odette’s story in an open verse format.  Although the intended audience  is children between the ages of 10-14, I think this book is significant for readers of all ages!

Not only do you learn facts about WWII from the viewpoint of a Jewish survivor, but you experience the juxtaposition of childlike innocence against the terror of a Nazi invasion and the Holocaust.  It is a beautifully written story that paints a vivid word picture of a family separated for years, and the experiences they had to endure in order to survive.

I was very moved by Odette’s story, and I pray the youth of today understand the price that was paid in order for them to live in freedom!!  Odette’s Secret has already earned multiple awards, and I think it will play a significant role in the education of many children.
About the Author:
Maryann Macdonald is the author of 25 books for children. Her latest is "Odette's Secrets," is published by Bloomsbury. A starred review in Kirkus states: "...this fictionalized history of a Jewish child surviving the Nazi occupation of France uses an elegant simplicity of language" and "...makes an ideal Holocaust introduction...."

Maryann's love of books and reading began when she was growing up in a family of ten outside Detroit. She lived in Europe for many years, where she discovered the touching story of Odette Meyers' childhood in her memoir, "Doors to Madame Marie." 

Maryann now lives in New York City, a great place for stumbling upon the unexpected.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Award-Winning Musician's Honor Chosen By Votes From Fans and Peers

NASHVILLE, Tenn.(December 16, 2014) -Legendary Gospel Music Hall of Famer and guitar virtuoso Phil Keaggy has been named the Greatest Christian Rock Guitarist of All Time by Classic Christian  
Rock Zone.
Keaggy topped the list of the 100 Greatest Christian Rock Guitarists of All Time in a recent survey conducted by the site. The results were determined by several percentage factors: 40% according to the results of the survey (over 24,000 votes were tallied), 30% according to the choice of a top peer group of Christian rock musicians, 20% according to the choice of Christian rock broadcasters and magazine publishers,
and 10% according to the choice of the site administrators.
Some of the Christian rock notables participating in the voting include: 
Rex Scott (X-Sinner)
"Many thanks to the voters first of all. There are so many great guitarists not just here in Nashville, but all over the world, who are not mentioned that should be up there in the high rankings," says Keaggy. "Polls and award shows make me nervous at times because truly gifted and hard working artists and guitarists often get overlooked. But I am humbled to even be on this list, and deeply appreciate your acknowledgement of my work over the years." 
Keaggy is currently working with long-time friend and executive producer Tommy Coomes (Love Song, Tommy Coomes Praise Band). Coomes has brought Keaggy together with hit songwriters, including Will McFarlane, Gordon Kennedy and others, to write songs for Keaggy's upcoming vocal album. The project is slated for a 2015 release.

To see the entire list of 100 Greatest Christian Rock Guitarists of All Time, visit classicchristianrockzone.blogspot
About Classic Christian Rock Zone:
Classic Christian Rock Zone began in March 2011. It was created to remember pioneers of Christian rock from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. The site also features current news on classic Christian rock artists who are still active musically..
"Classic Christian Rock Zone is a space for those who love this music, a space for those who have known Jesus through this music. Classic Christian Rock Zone is a space to remember the Christian rock artists from its origins to its heyday in the 80s and 90s." states Anthony Martinez, one of the administrators of the site. 
For more information, visit
About Phil Keaggy:
One of the world's most beloved musicians, Keaggy's solo career has spanned 40+ years and has included more than 50 solo albums, both vocal and instrumental, as well as three releases with his band, Glass Harp.

Widely recognized for his phenomenal guitar playing as well as his vocal and songwriting prowess, he has received numerous accolades and awards for his music, including seven Dove Awards and a Grammy nomination. Keaggy was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2007, and was named one of the Top 10 best rock singers in Christian music history by in 2009. In 2013, Keaggy received the prestigious ASCAP Golden Note Award in recognition of his outstanding career achievements. In addition, Rolling Stone has named him one of the "25 Most Underrated Guitarists," alongside Prince, The Beatles' George Harrison, Kurt Cobain, Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham. 
An accomplished record producer and one of the most sought-after studio guitarists on the planet, Keaggy also continues to sell out concerts all over the United States with his ever-changing style, ranging from rock & roll to fully-orchestrated instrumental compositions.
For more information, visit Follow Keaggy on Facebook ( or Twitter (@Phil_Keaggy).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A View from Maryann Macdonald's Window - The Christmas Cat

Maryann Macdonald is the author of 25 books for children.  She has created a delightful Christmas book based upon Leonardo da Vinci's La Madonna Del Gatto, or the Madonna of the Cat.

Da Vinci made many drawings of her in 1480 and 1481. In the drawings, the chubby child Jesus is depicted holding, stroking and playing with a cat.

A medieval legend tells about a litter of kittens born in the stable at Bethlehem the same night Jesus was born. If this were true, one of these kittens could have become a pet for Jesus. Born on the same night in the same place, what would their relationship have been like?

Maryann's love of books and reading began when she was growing up in a family of ten outside Detroit. She lived in Europe for many years.  Maryann now lives in New York City, a great place for stumbling upon the unexpected.

Where was the inspiration for the Christmas Cat born?  Was the idea birthed from Leonardo De Vinci’s drawings?
On a visit to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, I saw the da Vinci drawing and began to wonder:  What would it have been like if the child Jesus had a pet cat?  How might they have met?  What would their relationship have been like?  These questions set my mind to composing a story that became The Christmas Cat.
The idea of a cat soothing a baby is more than plausible! Why did you feel like you could present it as a believable scenario?  What research did you do? Or is this totally from your imagination?
I had a cat once who liked to cuddle with my daughter Alison and purr…maybe Spats liked her warmth and the coziness of being with a soft baby.  Or maybe it was the smell of milk!   
But I did do research.  I learned that cats were scarce in religious art before the plague.  They were thought to be Satanic.  But when cats went after rodents (the principal carriers of the Bubonic plague), people began to see their "good" side and they began appearing in religious art. 
I also reread the Gospel accounts of Jesus' childhood to see how I could fit a cat into what we know about his early life.  Then my sister told me how her cat, not wanting her to go away,  hid in her suitcase when she was packing for a trip.  How sweet, I thought.  And I adapted this story to accompany the one about the flight into Egypt.
How was the illustrator chosen for this book?
The publisher always chooses the illustrator, and my editor at Dial looked for a long time before finding Amy Bates.  But I think the wait was well worth it, since Ms. Bates did such a great job.  Her illustrations seem to me to mimic Leonardo's free hand, but in a child-friendly way. 
Why do you think this picture book idea will appeal to parents of small children?  Is it your hope that the book will open a door for parents to introduce their children to the truth of Christ’s birth?
I've been told by many parents that The Christmas Cat has been a hit with small children.  It sold out in just a few weeks last Christmas.  Maybe that's because children love babies.  And animals.  One of the top-selling Fischer-Price toys is the nativity set.  Kids love to arrange and rearrange the figures of people and animals, and tell the nativity story in their own way.  I've tried adding a cat to the existing creche, and it's a natural.  After all, who's to say there wasn't a cat in the stable at Bethlehem? 
What sets The Christmas Cat apart from other Christmas picture books? 
 Sadly, more and more Christmas picture books are secular:  Frosty the Snowman, Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer, and endless commercial tie-ins.  It would be nice to see more children's books about the origin of the holiday.  Last year, when The Christmas Cat was selected for the Barnes and Noble Christmas table nationwide, it was one of two or three "religious" titles for the picture book age group.  This year, I haven't seen any on that display.
Do you have memories of a pet – cat or otherwise – that you could draw from as you created this picture book? 
My husband and I lived in England for many years, where we were foster parents for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  We fostered many cats, and ended up adopting a few ourselves, so I've had lots of experience with cats and kittens, as well as other pets.  What I find so great about pets is that they keep a household lively and make people laugh.
What drew you to writing for children?  When did you realize that you were gifted in this particular genre? 
I've spent most of my life around children, since I grew up in a family of ten, had kids myself, and now have grandchildren.  As a consequence, I think I've come to know a little about children and how they think, what they enjoy.  I started writing at a very early age, about 10, and published my first story in a teenage literary magazine when I was 16.  But it wasn't until my own oldest daughter was a toddler that I decided to try my hand and writing and publishing a book for children.  I got lucky and sold one that first year.
Where do you look for ideas for you books? Or has the world become your well of endless ideas? 
Yes, I look for ideas everywhere, ideas that intrigue me.  Enduring enthusiasm is the key, since you have to believe in your book for a long time before it becomes a reality, sometimes years.  My first book was rejected 15 times, then stayed in print for 15 years!
Can you briefly describe the publication process of a picture book and how that differs from a chapter book – other than the subject matter and word length of course! 
A picture book typically takes longer to produce than a chapter book because of the illustration angle.  My experience is that from the time it takes between selling a picture book manuscript and when the book actually comes out is usually about two years, or longer. 
Do you have another writing project in the works already?
Can you share a sneak peek behind the scenes?  I am always working on a new book, but until the first draft is finished, I don't like to talk about it much.  It seems to take some of the energy out of the storytelling impulse to talk about it before it becomes a reality.  But I will say it takes place in New York City, where I live.  My recent middle-grade novel, Odette's Secrets, takes place in Paris and was written while I was living there with my husband a few years ago.  I find it helps to be surrounded with my setting.  If anyone is interested, they can read about my other books on
What closing words of encouragement would you like to share with your readers? 

If you feel you have a story within you that wants to come out, spend a little time writing about it as often as you can.  Every day for fifteen minutes is better than a full day every two weeks.  Your imagination will go to work on it during your non-writing time, and will help to fill in the blanks.  If you're interested in writing for children, join the Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators.  They hold meetings nationwide and give encouragement and practical help to newbies.  And read a lot in your genre.  Happy Reading!  Happy Writing!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Need You Now: A Story of Hope by Plumb - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from the author's website)
NEED YOU NOW: A Story of Hope is the deeply personal, incredibly honest, and hugely encouraging new book by recording artist, songwriter, and performer PLUMB aka Tiffany Lee. Equal parts revealing memoir and inspirational literature, each chapter reveals a day in the life of a rock star, inviting you into Plumb's personal journey of embracing her life's passion of music and her very real, all-encompassing love for her family and community. Both laugh-out-loud funny and deeply moving, Need You Now is the story of beautiful and embarrassing moments on stage, the joys and trials of motherhood and unbridled forgiveness. It is the story of soul mates, best friends and a marriage redeemed. And more than anything, Need You Now is the story of Jesus' love, fresh starts and the relentless message that no matter who you are or what you have done...there is always HOPE. 

My Thoughts:
His power alone sustains me.  His power alone gives me hope.”  (Tiffany Lee – Plumb)

Plumb – a singer – now an author – transparently shares her story in her book, Need You Now: a story of hope.  Before I read this book, all I knew about Plumb was the fact that some of her songs played on my local radio station – songs that I enjoy.  To read her story has made her very real to me.  I feel like I just sat down and shared life story over a cup of coffee.  This story is an intimate look into Plumb’s life to date – from childhood and singing in church with her dad to her recently resurrected marriage.  She is who she is…and I honestly feel like I would have the same experience with her face to face as I did reading her book.  I was encouraged to look for hope, the hope the is found in Christ alone.

Plumb has a real – feet on the ground – faith.  She has walked through trials in both her career and her personal life that has led her to the place of complete surrender and commitment to Christ alone.  Out of that place she has found a resurrected life in every way imaginable.  She is a testament to God’s faithfulness, His goodness, His holiness, His mercy and grace. 

I won’t give away anything of her journey, but I will say this:  Her story intersected with my life at a point where I needed renewed hope.  And I found that hope, just as she did, in Christ alone.  I’m thankful that she has shared her story.  God will place this story into the lives of those that need to hear the encouragement she offers.  At the end of the book readers will find many helpful resources that will help them on their own life journey. 

Thank you, Tiffany, for sharing your heart!

About the Author:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Discipleship by J. Heinrich Arnold - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Sometimes sensitive, sometimes provocative, but always encouraging, Arnold guides readers toward leading Christlike lives amid the stress and strain of modern life. Perhaps the hardest thing about following Christ is translating our good intentions into deeds. Christ calls us, and we yearn to answer him, but time and again we lose resolve. Is discipleship really possible today? Many of the selections in this book offer answers to specific needs or problems. Others grapple with broader themes such as world suffering, salvation, and the coming of the kingdom of God. All of them pulsate with conviction and compassion, giving fresh hope to those who and themselves lonely or disheartened in the daily search to follow Christ.

My Thoughts:
The only way to become free from darkness is to turn to the light, confess our sin, and come to the cross.” (p. 203)

Discipleship is like a concentrated taste of common sense, drenched in the Holy Spirit.  Arnold’s thoughts, from letters, journals, sermons – a variety of sources – are recorded by topic.  The broader topics, The Disciple, The Church, and The Kingdom of God are divided into very specific topics ranging from repentance and purity to forgiveness and baptism.  There are never any overly long passages to consider.  Sometimes it is just a sentence or two, or maybe a paragraph or two, but each word is laden with purpose and meaning!  I may not have agreed to be a part of the movement he led during his lifetime, but this was a man dedicated to bringing others to the Saving knowledge of Christ!! He knew where life began! 

God blessed this man with clear thinking, common sense and a boldness we are sorely lacking in the 21st Century.  I am happy to recommend this to everyone!  Read the Scripture passages.  Meditate on his thoughts. You will be both challenged and encouraged!

About the Author:
Johann Heinrich Arnold (also known as Heini and Heinrich) is best known for his books, which have helped thousands to follow Christ in their daily lives, and for his pastoral care as elder of the Bruderhof community movement.
When Heinrich Arnold was seven, his parents Eberhard and Emmy Arnold and their five children left a bourgeois life in Berlin for a dilapidated villa in the German village of Sannerz, where they founded the Bruderhof, a Christian community based on Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.
As a young man, Heinrich Arnold refused to serve in Hitler's armed forces and was forced to flee Germany. He studied agriculture in Zurich, Switzerland, and in 1936 married Annemarie Waechter, a kindergarten teacher and fellow Bruderhof member.
In 1938 Heinrich and Annemarie Arnold moved to England, where Heinrich managed the Bruderhof community’s farm, which by then had been expelled from Nazi Germany. In 1941 the Bruderhof community was forced to emigrate to South America. In 1954, however, Heinrich Arnold and his family moved to the fledgling Woodcrest Bruderhof in Rifton, New York, the first of many Bruderhof communities in North America. From 1962 until his death, Heinrich Arnold served as elder and pastor of the growing Bruderhof movement, guiding its communities through times of turmoil and crisis, and pointing again and again to Jesus Christ.
But those who knew best him remember Heinrich Arnold as a down-to-earth man who loved life and would warmly welcome any troubled person in for a cup of coffee and a chat.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Advent Conspiracy - GREAT IDEA!!!

The Advent Conspiracy by Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder is a movement designed to help us all slow down and experience a Christmas worth remembering. But doing this means doing things a little differently. A little creatively.  Through this engaging, four-session DVD you can substitute compassion for consumption by practicing four simple but powerful, countercultural concepts:
  • Worship Fully - because Christmas begins and ends with Jesus!
  • Spend Less – and free up resources for things that truly matter.
  • Give More – presence: helping hands, healing words, humble hearts.
  • Love All – the poor, the forgotten, the marginalized, the sick, in ways that make a difference.
Watch the first full session of The Advent Conspiracy, a Christmas Bible Study, here:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The True Christmas Story by Ran VanderLaan

Christmas Bible Study #2: The True Christmas Story by Ray VanderLaan

In this three-session DVD, travel with teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan to the land of Israel to discover the fascinating truths about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.  The True Christmas Story is strikingly relevant, packed with faith-building truths, and sure to speak to your heart well beyond the Christmas season.